Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Learning First Aid

Many experts on education believe that first aid is taught effectively in a structured setting where there is hands-on experience. But where to begin? If you are a layperson without any special medical training, you might begin with an American Red Cross-type program that covers the basics of first aid, including rescue breathing and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Wilderness medicine is the application of medical knowledge in an outdoor environment, with additional instruction on situations related to special situations, such as cold, heat, altitude, etc. So, once you have a reasonable first aid background, you then need to add the special knowledge needed to be able to manage medical situations outdoors. This very often depends upon your ability to improvise.

There are a number of venues for wilderness medicine education. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Outward Bound, Advanced Wilderness Life Support, and other outdoor education organizations have programs that teach medicine for the outdoors. From time to time, the Wilderness Medical Society holds educational seminars for laypersons, and often holds them for medical professionals. You may be able to learn about programs through a local outdoor retailer, such as Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI). There are unique local programs, such as the ones that used to be sponsored in the San Francisco Bay Area by the Mountain Medicine Institute.

Regardless of where you begin, you owe it to yourself, friends, and family to take the time to learn what you can about wilderness medicine, before you need the knowledge and skills in a real life situation. It is more than important to be smart, and to be prepared.

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photo courtesy of Newcastle Wilderness Medicine Society
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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.